Air bags save lives.
However, two things must be kept in mind regarding the deployment of your air bag during a crash: (1) the air bag is a supplemental safety device; and (2) safety precautions must be taken to minimize the risk of your air bag actually causing injury during deployment.
The primary restraint system in all vehicles are the lap and shoulder belts. As a secondary, or supplemental safety device, air bags work best when all passengers are properly buckled, secured and restrained in their seats. Safety belts must be used with air bags. When this is done, the risk of injury or death from a motor vehicle crash is greatly reduced.
Overall, air bags add to the protection offered by seat belts. But what about the stories of air bag deployments causing serious injuries? The chances of this occurring are extremely remote. Air bags, when used in conjunction with safety belts, prevent far more injuries and deaths than they cause. But certain safety precautions must be observed.
In order to do its job cushioning the impact of crash in a mere fraction of a second, air bags come out of the dashboard at up to 200 miles per hour. This force can injure those who are too close to the air bag's deployed space. Therefore, it's essential that the occupants are properly positioned in their seats in order to create a safe distance -- at least 10 inches -- between them and the air bag.
It's for this reason that the South Carolina Highway Patrol and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put out safety tips designed to substantially reduce the risk of injuries from air bags. The Cherokee County Sheriff's Office urges all motorists to review the safety tips below and keep them in mind when getting behind the wheel, sitting as a passenger in a moving vehicle or restraining young children inside a vehicle.
Safety belts must be used with air bags. That means everyone should buckle up with both lap and shoulder belts on every trip.
If you're driving, move your seat to the rear as far as you can while still being able to reach the pedals and essential controls comfortably.
Slightly recline the back of the seat. If reclining the back of your seat makes it hard to see the road, raise the seat if your vehicle has that feature. If your vehicle doesn't have that feature, raise your body by using a firm, non-slippery cushion.
If your steering wheel is adjustable, tilt it downward. This will point the air bag towards your chest instead of your head and neck.
Adult passengers also should ride at least 10 inches from the air bag. Children 12-years-old and younger should ride in the back seat, away from the air bag.
Children are safest when they're belted properly in the back seat of a car. This is especially so in vehicles that are equipped with a passenger-side air bag. Never put a rear-facing child restraint in front of an air bag.
When trying out a new, used or leased vehicle, consider the vehicle's safety features and controls and how they interact with the air bags to ensure maximum protection for you and your passengers.